Mis­placed border pri­or­i­ties

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

The way the pros­e­cu­tion was car­ried out — the lengths that our gov­ern­ment has gone through to pros­e­cute two U.S. Border Pa­trol agents — is tremen­dously dis­con­cert­ing. Forth­with, the de­tails of the case: A Mex­i­can drug smug­gler with 743 pounds of mar­i­juana in a van con­fronted and as­saulted a border Pa­trol agent in Fe­bru­ary 2005. The agents shot the sus­pect in the but­tocks as he fled across the Rio Grande. The Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment or­dered an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and, af­ter lo­cat­ing the sus­pect, pre­sented him with an of­fer of im­mu­nity. Yes, im­mu­nity. In ex­change, all the sus­pect, Os­baldo Al­drete-Dav­ila, had to do was tes­tify against the two agents, Ig­na­cio Ramos and Jose Alonso Com­pean. The agents, 10- and five-year vet­er­ans, re­spec­tively, of the Border Pa­trol, were sen­tenced in Oc­to­ber to a com­bined 23 years in prison. The drug smug­gler was not charged.

Border Pa­trol agents, like all law en­forcers, are not above the law, but in its zeal­ous ef­forts to hold the con­duct of Ramos and Com­pean up to scru­tiny, the Jus­tice De­part­ment made sev­eral deeply per­turb­ing de­ci­sions. Why of­fer a sus­pected drug run­ner, who had al­ready bro­ken the law by en­ter­ing our coun­try il­le­gally, im­mu­nity in ex­change for his tes­ti­mony against the two border pa­trol agents? The se­ri­ously mis­placed pri­or­i­ties leave us thor­oughly dis­ap­pointed with the process.

Pres­i­dent Bush on Jan. 18 — the day af­ter the agents be­gan serv­ing their prison sen­tences — promised a “sober look” at the case, but tak­ing an hon­est, sober look at the sit­u­a­tion on the border has not been a hall­mark of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, ac­cu­rately summed up the sit­u­a­tion: “Our border agents risk their lives daily to up­hold our im­mi­gra­tion laws and de­fend our borders,” Jerry Seper re­ported Jan. 18 in The Wash­ing­ton Times. “If the con­vic­tion of Ramos and Com­pean is an in­di­ca­tion of how our gov­ern­ment will re­pay them, we can be cer­tain good men and women will soon flee the ranks of Border Pa­trol ser­vice,” the con­gress­man said.

While the pres­i­dent de­cides whether to grant a par­don, safety is a paramount con­cern for the two agents, now in­car­cer­ated while await­ing ap­peal. Prison is a dan­ger­ous place for for­mer law en­forcers, and spe­cial steps need to be taken to en­sure no fur­ther harm comes to Ramos and Com­pean.

Such harsh — if not down­right ma­li­cious — pros­e­cu­tion sends the wrong mes­sage to both agents and the en­tire U.S. Border Pa­trol. That mes­sage is that Border Pa­trol agents, our first line of de­fense along the south­ern border, should be more con­cerned with pro­tect­ing them­selves from fu­ture pros­e­cu­tion than with ac­tively and earnestly car­ry­ing out their du­ties.

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